We love rooms that break rules. One of our favorite emerging trends in the world of décor is the aesthetic that seamlessly blends masculine and feminine points of design. Gender-neutral living is the ultimate inclusive aesthetic. Fluidly merging clean architecture with punctuations of organic allure, the look has something for everyone. Those living with others know that marrying personal style can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve enlisted the expertise of one of our favorite companies for a master class in the art of unisex cool. New York–based TRNK is on a self-professed mission to bring new converts (bachelors, take note) into the interior-obsessed fold. Their artfully curated site routinely dishes up some of the best emerging artisanal brands alongside wallet-friendly staple pieces and one-of-a-kind works of art. Here to school you in the art of adaptation is TRNK co-founder Tariq Dixon. We thought we knew every trick in the book, but Dixon’s tastemaker’s eye offered us some brand-new insights.
Rule one of gender-neutral mastery is avoiding the stereotypical tropes and clichés. “Limit the sports memorabilia, taxidermy, and gaming equipment,” says Dixon. Adding abundant florals, lace, and pastels that read as too precious to the list of hard don’ts. Keep the aesthetic edited, subtle, and sophisticated. To strike the proper balance, favor modern lines over traditional silhouettes. “Given its restraint, modern is inherently more neutral,” Dixon tells us, “versus traditional furniture, which tends to lean more strongly in one direction—especially in the detailing.”
If you’re an avid fan of vibrant hues, fear not—it’s all in the execution. “Sticking to a more neutral color palette is fairly foolproof,” says Dixon of the tendency to go blond on blond (a look we love, by the way). “That’s not to say a gender-neutral space is incompatible with bold color,” he adds.“Primary colors pair really beautifully with natural materials, like dark wood and brown leather,” says Dixon. “Bright yellow, fire-engine red, or cobalt blue through artwork, textiles, or accent furniture pair with more of a monochromatic grayscale base.”
“Another approach is to rely on rich jewel tones like crimson, mustard, teal, and emerald,” says Dixon. If you’re going to add a splash of loud tone, the trick is to keep the rest of your space relatively minimal. It’s all about hierarchy and balance, which requires experimentation.
“We tend to favor natural materials that will age well and only get better with time,” says Dixon of TRNK’s inventory, which is chock-full of solid hardwoods, leather, and rich, unlacquered brass details. “The unlacquered metal patina that’ll eventually develop can definitely lend some masculine vibes, but it can be equally embraced by someone with more feminine tastes,” he tells us. “These materials also help the space to feel a little less precious. They tend to be less delicate and really allow you to less cautious and more comfortable in your home. For a lot of guys, function often precedes form.” There’s no need to sacrifice on either point.
When it comes to where to allocate the big bucks, Dixon answers easily. “Splurge on lighting,” he states. “A dramatic, sculptural light fixture can really transform a space, and offer a focal point for the room.” Area rugs offer an opportunity for inviting color and pattern into a paired-down, crisp aesthetic. “Rugs are often essential to adding a much-needed texture to a space,” says Dixon. “Any quality rug is inevitably going to cost a healthy penny,” he adds. Splurge accordingly.
The most unexpected and ingenuous budget hack Dixon offers is saving on wall dressings. “In terms of savings, I think artwork is one opportunity. Any space will benefit from great art on the walls,” he tells us. “There are ways of sourcing beautiful imagery without having an auction-house budget. One of our favorite options are vintage gallery posters. They’re inexpensive but allow you to live with your favorite, iconic images. Produced by museums and art galleries, they’re often editioned and printed at a high quality.”
“If you’re limited on budget, it might make sense to hold off on a new sofa,” adds Dixon. “You can reinvest the money into decorative items like pillows, artwork, lighting, and rugs, which will often make a stronger visual impact. While you’re saving up, you can dress up the sofa with a few patterned pillows and a throw blanket.” Switching up your seasonal accessories is also a quick and easy revamp for those of us with more mercurial décor moods.
When it comes to furniture, “size absolutely matters,” says Dixon. “A lot of our male clients favor oversize, overstuffed furniture. Comfort is key, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of having a functional, well-proportioned space.” Focus on creating a sense of hierarchy with scale and scope.
“Having too many small items that can make a space feel cluttered,” says Dixon. “Our motto is: Pare down and scale up—especially when it comes to decorative items. An oversize piece of art or a large hanging light fixture can make the space feel bigger.”
“A well-balanced room will have a couple of grand statement pieces that act as the focal points or anchors for the space,” says Dixon. Mix high and low, big and small. “A space should have contrast, so there’s absolutely a place for more delicate items,” he adds. “The volume of such really depends on your lifestyle, but the bookshelf or mantel is always a good place to achieve visual impact without impeding on the comfort or function of the space.” Get your shelfie game on.
For the truly bold, Dixon favors another of our favorite trends: oversize statement art. “Large works of art provide a clean, sophisticated way to make a big statement in a space.” In terms of where to hang your acquisitions, “above the sofa or in an entryway,” says Dixon. “If you’re looking to build a gallery wall,” he adds, “start by finding a larger piece to ground the display, and continue to build around it. You shouldn’t be afraid to mix and match inspirations or mediums—it’s usually more about finding the layout and balance of proportions.” Big moves, small tweaks. We can get with that.
Have you ever lived with a partner who had a completely incompatible sense of style? When it comes to home design, is there such a thing as irreconcilable differences?